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Vol. 37 No. 3, May/June 2000
Pages 341 - 352

Lifting characteristics of functionally limited elders

Michael S. Puniello, MS, PT, OCS; Chris A. McGibbon, PhD; David E. Krebs, PhD, PT

MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, MA 02114; Massachusetts General Hospital Biomotion Laboratory, Boston, MA 02114

Abstract — Background. The purpose of this study was to investigate the lifting characteristics of elders with functional limitations using burden lifting smoothness, trunk angular momentum, and back and hip torque, and to correlate these characteristics with strength and functional measures.

Methods. Thirty elders (65-89 years old) consented to biomechanical analysis of lifting, gait, and chair rise, and to maximum isometric strength testing of the hip and knee extensors and shoulder flexors. Jerk, the rate of change of acceleration, is a measure of smoothness of motion. We calculated peak vertical jerk of the box at the beginning part of the lift. Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. HAT (head, arms, trunk) angular momentum was calculated during chair rise.

Results. Hip extensor strength correlated positively with box jerk, as did box jerk and peak trunk angular momentum between subjects. There was an inverse correlation between peak upper body angular momentum when lifting a box from floor to knee height, and gait speed normalized to body weight. There was a positive correlation between trunk angular momentum during lifting and trunk angular momentum during chair rise.

Conclusion. Stronger subjects used more peak vertical box jerk and more trunk peak angular momentum to lift a box from floor to knee height. Stronger subjects who used more HAT angular momentum during free speed chair rise also used more trunk peak angular momentum during the first phase of the lift, but lifting characteristics were independent of gait velocity. Weaker subjects used less peak momentum and peak jerk, choosing instead a more conservative, and apparently more stable, lifting strategy. Before counseling elderly patients on proper body mechanics for lifting, clinicians should assess strength and functional status. Weak elders should be taught a lifting strategy that allows them to maintain optimal balance, and to lift without jerking the load.

Key words: angular momentum, balance, biomechanics, elderly, jerk, lifting, strength.

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